Commenting on the publication of the latest quarterly waiting list stats and HSC vacancy stats, which show a further increase in the number of patients waiting for a first consultant-led outpatient appointment and a nearly 50% rise in the number of consultant posts being recruited to in the past year, Dr David Farren, chair of BMA’s Northern Ireland consultants committee (NICC), said: “What these statistics tell us is that our waiting list crisis goes hand-in-hand with our workforce crisis.
“Countless transformation reports over the past 15 years have warned that proper investment and workforce planning were needed to future proof the health service. Despite this we are now sitting with the longest waiting lists in the UK per-head of population and with the largest locum spend on doctors of any UK nation.
It is particularly concerning to continue to see high vacancy rates in specialties such as surgery, anaesthetics, ICU and critical care medicine and radiology - key specialties in addressing our long waiting lists.
“Our stop-start Assembly’s inability to deal with years of growing workload and workforce pressures has driven doctors to point of burnout and exhaustion. This, along with consecutive below inflation or non-existent pay awards and a pensions taxation system that financially penalises senior doctors who frequently work extra shifts to cover clinical vacancies or to try and reduce waiting lists, is forcing many clinicians out of the workforce either through early retirement or by leaving altogether. Unless urgent steps are taken to address these problems then the waiting list and workforce crisis will only continue to get worse.”